29 August 2012

Nacho, Nacho, Nom

I don't know why, but I've been craving nachos. Those horrible-for-you-drowned-in-orange-cheez-goo nachos you can get at cinemas and sporting events. I haven't actually eaten the darn things in years, but that doesn't mean my taste buds and tummy don't remember them with apparent fondness.

Knowing that what I really wanted was salty crunch and hot gooeyness, I turned to Pinterest for "healthy" nacho recipes and came upon "Nachos with Chicken and Black Beans" from the Cook This, Not That at Men's Health. There would be salty crunchiness and hot gooeyness, but also lean protein and soluble fiber.

Chicken Nachos

The original recipe serves six as an appetizer and doesn't tell you how much chicken to use, so I tweaked the recipe to serve two as a main course, guesstimating the amount of chicken in the process.
Chicken Nachos
Inspired by Cook This, Not That

3 oz round tortilla chips
6 oz shredded cooked chicken [rotisserie chicken works well here]
1 cup low-sodium canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz shredded Cabot 75% reduced fat sharp cheddar
3 Tbsp red onion, diced
2 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup fat-free Greek yoghurt
2 tsp dried cilantro
6 Tbsp Green Mountain Gringo roasted garlic salsa
1 oz sliced pickled jalapenos

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Combine lime juice, yoghurt, and cilantro. Set aside.

Spread chips across a baking sheet. Scatter the beans over the chips, and then top with the cheese, chicken, and onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes (too hot and the sour cream cream will run).

Spoon yoghurt over the nachos. Top with the salsa and jalapenos. Eat.

Serves 2 as main course.

Chicken Nachos

This dish is a bit messy to serve so, if you can, I recommend eating it straight from the pan. Shhh. I won't tell.

What did I do with the rest of the black beans? Well, some went on a green salad and the rest went on a baked sweet potato with a little salsa and fat-free Greek yoghurt.

Sweet Potato

27 August 2012

Pasta & Tomatoes Two Ways

Also known as how-fast-can-supper-get-in-my-tummy?!

Pasta & Tomatoes

Thaw two fully-cooked chicken sausage, slice into coins, and set aside. Toss four cups cherry tomatoes with olive oil, four crushed garlic cloves, and salt-free Italian seasoning blend. Roast @ 400°F for about 30 min.

Slice two fully-cooked chicken sausage into thick coins. Add sausage to tomatoes and roast 15 min more. Toss with cooked egg noodles. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and season with freshly ground black pepper, as desired.

Pasta & Tomatoes

Core, seed, and dice five large tomatoes. Heat a small splash of olive oil in a skillet until fragrant. Add diced tomatoes, minced red onion, pressed garlic, and salt-free Italian seasoning blend. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have broken down and onion is translucent. Add one cup cubed cooked chicken and cook, stirring, until chicken is heated through. Season with Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. Toss with cooked pasta.

25 August 2012

Presto! Pesto Baked Salmon & Tomatoes

When life gives you a bumper-crop tomatoes ... you darn well eat them, knowing you'll miss them dreadfully in January. This week, we've had tomato-bread salad, tomato soup, tomato pizza, tomatoes stuffed with eggs, and now tomatoes baked with salmon.

Pesto Baked Salmon & Tomatoes

All this lycopene better be doing brilliant things to my ramshackle body, I tell you what.

Anyway, this dish was dead easy to make and tasted really good -- the tomato juices and olive oil mingled with the herbs and salmon juices and it was just oh! a savory flavor explosion for the tastebuds.
Pesto-Baked Salmon & Tomatoes

4 large tomatoes, cored and diced
1 lb salmon fillet, boned and halved
2 Tbsp prepared pesto
freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, minced
fresh oregano, minced

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toss tomatoes with one tablespoon pesto, pepper, and herbs. Set aside.

Spread salmon with remaining tablespoon of pesto. Place, skin-side up in a baking dish. Surround with tomatoes.

Pesto Baked Salmon & Tomatoes

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. Let stand 5 minutes. Peel off salmon skin.

Serve with pesto rice (toss hot rice with pesto) and steamed spinach.

24 August 2012

Too Many Tomatoes? Pizza!

I thought about making a tomato pie with garden herbs, corn, cheddar and pie crust, but then I realized I could just make pizza with the same ingredients for less time and effort.

Actually forgot to put corn on it!

I bought a ball of refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough at the grocery store, but all the other ingredients were on hand -- pesto, red onions, mozzarella, and cheddar were already in my fridge and tomatoes, thyme, and oregano came from my garden.

I preheated my oven, with the pizza stone in it, to 450°F. While the oven was doing its thing, I sliced the vegetables very thinly and chopped the herbs.

Feeling all smugly organized and shizzle, I set out to roll my dough ... not realizing I had no cornmeal and didn't know where my rolling pin was! Yes, I lost a rolling pin somewhere in my kitchen. I am truly blessed.

Happily, a water glass makes a handy rolling pin substitute and I rolled the dough out on a rectangular piece of parchment. This turned out to be The. Best. Idea. Ever. as I could just pick up the parchment, pizza and all, and slide it onto the hot stone. The paper browned while the pizza baked, but did not burn. Then I just slid the hot parchment paper/pizza off the stone onto a cutting board and let the pizza set for 5 minutes or so. Cut it into pieces and went omnomnom.

Pretty sure this pizza should have served four people with salad, but we skipped the salad and split it between the two of us and were happy. The Husband gave the pizza 10 ★s, but later downgraded it to 9½ ★s when I told him I'd used a whole wheat crust. Silly.

22 August 2012

Tomatoes Stuffed With Eggs (Really)

I'd been mulling over the idea of baking eggs in hollowed out tomatoes for a while now, but either didn't have big enough tomatoes (wall to wall cherries, man) or had the right tomatoes but no courage. Seriously, I couldn't decided if baked egg-filled tomatoes would be The Best Idea Ever or just a bit weird. In the end, I just decided to go for it. If the dish failed, there was always the burger shack down the road!

Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

For this dish, I merged two recipes -- Martha Stewart's "Baked Eggs in Tomatoes" and Whole Living's recipe for "Baked Eggs in Whole Roasted Tomatoes." I liked Whole Living's idea to roast the tomatoes before filling them with whole eggs, but I also liked Stewart's use of corn and chives. And then I just had a moment and stuff happened in the kitchen and the eggs didn't turn out quite as I'd planned, but were still pretty darn delicious.

Cheesy Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 large tomatoes
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar (or whatever you like best)
4 large eggs
Smoked paprika, as desired

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice a little bit off the bottom each tomato so they stand firm and don't wobble. Slice the top off the tomatoes, core, and use teaspoon to gently remove the flesh and seeds. Turn upside down and drain on paper towels for about 15 minutes.

Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

Place tomatoes in a baking dish, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle insides of each tomato with thyme and garlic. Roast until tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

Add a tablespoon each of corn and cheese to the bottom of each tomato. Carefully crack an egg into each tomato. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar. Dust with paprika. Bake until eggs are just set, 7 to 9 minutes more. Eat.
I really wasn't sure what The Husband would think of this dish, but he really liked it and said he would be happy to eat it again. I served it with pesto rice and the egg yolks and tomato juices ran all over the rice, creating the most delicious mixture.

Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes

18 August 2012

Spicy Surimi Salad

When I made this surimi salad, I was inspired by Jacques Pepin's recipe for "Surimi Salad on Greens" from More Fast Food My Way (Episode 216 -- the same as the mini savory cheesecakes) but I didn't have quite the right ingredients. Nonetheless, I was pleased by the results and recommend you give it a try.

Surimi Salad

(Obviously, if you don't like spicy, use less sriracha).
Spicy Surimi Salad

8 oz package surimi
2 bottled roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp minced chives
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp sriracha
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
Mixed salad greens

In a bowl, combine surimi, pepper, mayonnaise, shallot, chives, lemon juice, and sriracha. Arrange salad greens among three plates. Spoon the surimi salad on top. Garnish each serving with tomato wedges.

Makes 3 servings.

16 August 2012

Improv Challenge: Peppers & Tomatoes

I've always been intrigued by panzanella and, when I saw August's Improv Challenge was peppers and tomatoes, I knew it was time to try making one. I started looking for recipes and almost immediately came across Stewart's recipe for "Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Salad." It sounded pretty darn delicious and I had all the ingredients on hand so I set forth on the path to panzanella mastery.

The first time I made this salad, I halved the ingredients but otherwise followed Stewart's recipe exactly. The salad was surprisingly fabulous for something so simple -- all those beautiful garden tomato juices mingling with the oil and vinegar, soaking into the crunchy bread. Double yum with knobs on!

Then I started thinking about all the fresh herbs rioting in my garden and wondered if I could incorporate those into the salad. I started messing around with Stewart's recipe and ended up with what you see below -- a kind of faux Greek panzanella. It's fantastically good, combining all my favorite summer flavors in one bowl. I keep debating throwing a little goat cheese in, but I can't decide if that would increase the level of awesome or just gild the lily.


Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Bread Salad
Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

2 ounces day old baguette, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil [Lucero Arbequina]
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar [Katz Late Harvest Zinfandel AgroDolce Vinegar]
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
8 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 medium tomato, cored and cut into ½-inch wedges
1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch strips
Sea salt and ground pepper

Panzanella Ingredients

Preheat oven to 450°F degrees.

Toss bread with 1 teaspoon oil and spread across a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, and garlic. Add tomato, roasted pepper, thyme, oregano, olives, and toasted bread. Toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 large serving.

15 August 2012

Eating The Alphabet: O is for Olives & Oregano

My mother taught me to sprinkle dried oregano on my sandwiches, because oregano makes a sandwich better. Salami, turkey, roast beef, ham, grilled cheese ... all better with oregano. So, when I started thinking about recipes for August's Alphabet Challenge, I spent a lot of time staring at the pot of oregano growing on my porch.

I thought about making a tapenade or muffauletta olive spread, but then Men's Health's "Croissant with Herbed Goat Cheese and Spinach" popped up on Pinterest and I knew I had found The Right Sandwich. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a recipe so I just kind of made one up as I went along.

Olive-Oregano Goat Cheese Spread

It's a good sandwich -- full of strong flavors, but they all meld together well. If you're not fond of goat cheese, cream cheese or a Laughing Cow wedge would work well as substitutes.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Spinach Sandwich
Inspired by Men's Health

Olive-Oregano Goat Cheese Spread

2 Tbsp soft goat cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
6 small kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 oz baby spinach leaves
1 oz bottled roasted red pepper, drained and patted dry
1 whole wheat ciabatta roll, split

Combine goat cheese with thyme, oregano, and olives.

Olive-Oregano Goat Cheese Spread

Spread thickly over one half of ciabatta. Pile with pepper and spinach. Top with remaining ciabatta half. Eat.

Makes 1 sandwich.
You could also spread the goat cheese mixture on thin slices of baguette, crown them with a bit of sliced roasted pepper and more fresh herbs, and serve them as an appetizer or snack.

Olive-Oregano Goat Cheese Spread

07 August 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Cheesecake

PhotobucketAugust’s Crazy Cooking Challenge was cheesecake. Cheesecake. In August. Eek! August means heat and stickiness. It means huddling over the air conditioner vent with a sweaty glass of iced tea, day-dreaming about ice cold melon and popsicles. There was just no way I was going to be able to bake or eat a cheesecake (The Husband wishes you to know that, if I really loved him, I would have baked a cheesecake and he, out of love for me, would have eaten it all).

I tried a couple no-bake cheesecake recipes, but they either just didn't turn out good enough for the Crazy Cooking Challenge or were so appallingly bad that I can't bear to think about them. August 7 crept steadily closer and I was still without a recipe. So what to do?

I turned, as I always turn, to my library’s cookbook collection and Jacques Pepin's More Fast Food My Way was my salvation. I would make "Mini Savory Cheesecakes on Arugula or Butterhead Lettuce" and my taste buds would be so happy. Yes, I would still run my oven, but only for twenty minutes and I could live with that, because ... blue cheese. Le fromage bleu. Délicieux!

Savory Mini Cheesecake

I know, you're thinking "Savory cheesecakes? What the heck?" Normally, we think of cheesecake as a decadent sweet to be enjoyed as a dessert, studded with chocolate or glazed with fruit. But, why not a savory cheesecake for a light lunch or appetizer?

If you're going to make this recipe, I strongly suggest watching the accompanying episode first as there are a few differences between how the recipe is written and how it is filmed. For instance, the video calls for adding about ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese to the cheesecake batter, plus some on top before baking and the written recipe just wants it on top. Claudine omits the bread crumbs (and I did, too). Also, the video says the savory cheesecakes can be served hot or lukewarm -- they fall as they cool, but they still taste good.

Boy, do the ever! Mine never puffed up as much as Pepin's, but they still taste outstandingly good. The strong blue cheese is tempered somewhat by the sour cream and cream cheese and the tangy salad vinaigrette partners well with it all. While I used reduced fat blue cheese crumbles and light sour cream in this recipe, the cheesecake still tastes rich and decadent -- also, unexpectedly light (almost fluffy) which it's squat, puck-like appearance belies.

06 August 2012

Invasion of the Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomato Time
Italian Ice, Red Lightning, Tye-Dye,
Honeybunch, Sun Gold, Heritage,
Pink Pounder, Orange Slice, Black Krim,
Big Rainbow, Brandywine, Burpee's Supersteak.

I planted them all.

What was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. It was winter and spring seemed a long time off and I, missing summer's fresh tomatoes, thought "I can't plant too many tomatoes." Well, yes, I can and clearly did, because I harvested just shy of 20 pounds of the delicious bastards this weekend. Cherry, small fruit, and big 'uns. Heirloom and not so.

Tomato Time

What am I going to do with all these tomatoes? Well, a whole lot have already been made into soup -- both the roasted cherry tomato soup I made last week and "Heirloom Tomato Soup" from Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking magazine. Some of the cherries will go into Martha Stewart's Baked Stuffed Red Peppers with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta, & Thyme." As for the rest, I don't know. Tomato jam, maybe, or pie.

I used Italian Ice tomatoes in the roasted cherry soup so it came out paler and a little tarter than the one I made last week with the Sun Golds. A little bit of honey helped sweeten it, though, and I wasn't really concerned about the color while I was sucking mugs of it down.

Tomato Time

And we won't even talk about the enormous quantity of carrots I harvested ... monstrous carrots of unusual size. Help. Send raw vegans. Or vampire bunnies.

04 August 2012

Imperfectly Delicious Oreo Cheesecake Pudding Bites

August's Crazy Cooking Challenge is cheesecake and straight away I knew I would need a recipe for a bite-size no-bake cheesecake, because ... August. August is not for baking nor is it for heavy food like cheesecake.

Happily, I found a recipe at Cooking Classy for no-bake "Oreo Cheesecake Bites" that looked like it would be perfect for the challenge. We like Oreos. We love cheesecake. We adore bite-size nibbles.

No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake Bites
So cute!

Unfortunately, I immediately ran into a big problem -- none of the grocery stores near me sold 3.4 oz packages of cheesecake flavored instant pudding mix. The closest thing I could find was 1 oz Jell-O brand sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix at Target.

I decided to give it a go but fudge the amount of liquid, because I worried that using the smaller box would mean a soupier filling if I used the original amounts of liquid. So, instead of 1 cup heavy cream and ¾ cup milk, I used 1 cup heavy cream and ¼ (1%) milk. This sounds logical, doesn't it? Well, it didn't work. My cheesecake filling was still very pudding like and leaving it in the freezer for 20 minutes (instead of 10) didn't noticeably improve it.

Mind you, it still tasted very good -- gooey Oreo cheesecake filling cannot taste bad as it contains both Oreos and cheesecake and those things are never bad -- and we were happy enough to eat the bites, imperfect as they might be.

Because the recipe made 30 and there are only 2 of us, I made 6 bites and stored the rest of the filling in my frosting gun in the freezer so that 1) the filling would hopefully set-up more as time went on and 2) we could make more bites whenever we pleased. If the filling doesn't set up more overnight, I'll just make cheesecake parfaits by layering the gooey filling with crushed Oreos and whipped cream.

Eek! Two days left to find another cheesecake recipe! To the library!